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UPDATE 1-Sapec launches sale of agricultural chemicals business - sources

(Adds context, valuation)

By Arno Schuetze

FRANKFURT Oct 12 Belgium-listed chemicals group Sapec has launched the sale of its agricultural chemicals business as it streamlines its portfolio, two people close to the matter said.

The company has asked Lazard to find a buyer for the business and tentative buyers have already been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, the people said.

Sapec was not available for comment while Lazard declined to comment.

In the first six months of 2016, sales at Sapec's agricultural chemicals business were roughly flat at 120 million euros ($134 million), while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by a third to 20 million euros.

The agrichemicals sector has seen a wave of consolidation, including Bayer's acquisition of Monsanto and ChemChina's purchase of Syngenta.

While these deals valued the targets at roughly 17 times expected core earnings, Sapec's agrichemicals unit is unlikely to reach a similar price tag as it is a mixture of higher-margin crop protection and lower-margin fertilizer business.

Potential bidders were expected to value the business at up to 10 times its expected core earnings, or up to 400 million euros, a person familiar with the matter said.

($1 = 0.8928 euros) (Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Christoph Steitz and Louise Heavens)

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